German music award scrapped amid raging anti-Semitism row

AFP
Organizers of German Echo music prize scrapped their main award due to an anti-Semitism row as thousands of Germans rallied in solidarity with Jews after a spate of hate crimes.
AFP
Reuters

People wear kippas as they attend a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue, to denounce an anti-Semitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa in the capital earlier this month, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018.

Organizers of a major German music prize scrapped their main award on Wednesday due to an anti-Semitism row as thousands of Germans rallied in solidarity with Jews after a spate of shocking hate crimes.

A cascade of recent scandals, including the “Echo” prize-winning rap duo making light of Nazi death camp prisoners, has raised pointed questions about Germany’s ability to protect its burgeoning Jewish community seven decades after the Holocaust.

In the latest ugly incident, a tiny Berlin rally against anti-Semitism with just three demonstrators was marred when angry counter-protesters shouted “terrorists,” spat at them and snatched their Israeli flag, organizers said.

Police said event on Wednesday in Neukoelln district, the heart of the capital’s Muslim immigrant community, ended early after the trio were shouted down by “loud and emotional” opponents and feared for their safety.

Elsewhere in Berlin, some 2,000 demonstrators rallied at a “Berlin Wears Kippa” event where Jews and non-Jews wore the traditional skullcap in a shared show of defiance.

Speaking at the rally, Berlin’s Jewish community chairman Gideon Joffe warned that the growing threat meant “it’s five minutes to midnight,” adding that “we have to be careful.”

The head of the country’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, demanded “100 percent respect” for Jews as well as for Muslims, homosexuals and people of “all skin colors.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel had on Sunday denounced the emergence of “another form of anti-Semitism,” beyond that of right-wing extremist groups, from Muslim refugees.

Talking on Israeli TV, she reaffirmed that the security of Jews and of the state of Israel was a central concern for Germany because of its “eternal responsibility” for the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed 6 million European Jews.

Last week Germans were stunned after a 19-year-old Syrian refugee attacked two young men wearing kippas with his belt in a trendy Berlin district, shouting “yahudi” — Jew in Arabic — and lashing out with a belt. A video of the assault went viral on social media and sparked widespread revulsion.

Earlier this month, two rappers raised hackles by winning the Echo music prize after selling more than 200,000 copies of their album which features a lyric boasting that their bodies are “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners.”

Amid the national debate, organizers of the Echo prize said on Wednesday they would ax the award because they did not want it to be “seen as a platform for anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia or the playing down of violence.”

Minutes later the rappers’ music label, BMG, announced that it was dropping the duo, Farid Bang and Kollegah.

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